Construction is nearly complete on a $163.7 million project to replace the aging Sakonnet River Bridge, which carries Route 24 between Tiverton and Portsmouth.
RIDOT broke ground on the project in April 2009, and met a key milestone about three years later when it shifted traffic to the new bridge in September 2012. Final completion is expected in 2013.
The new bridge is 2,265 feet long and approximately 96 feet wide. Motorists will find two 12-foot lanes in each direction with wide shoulders. The bridge includes a planned 13-foot wide bicycle and pedestrian path on the north side of the bridge. For mariners, there is a wider passage under the bridge’s center span, and the new bridge will maintain the minimum vertical clearance over the river of 65 feet. The project also calls for a parking area and a boat ramp on the Tiverton side of the bridge.
The bridge includes a number of decorative and architectural features. These include LED-based lighting to illuminate the bridge’s piers in the river and light posts in the center median. RIDOT also included back-lighted bronze plaques on the approaches of the bridge that will depict the town seals of Portsmouth and Tiverton, as well as an anchor from the Rhode Island State Seal.
RIDOT was able to retain these design features even after a redesign in 2007 trimmed about $34 million from the project cost. A majority of the savings was achieved by lowering the profile of the bridge and constructing a large embankment for the eastern approach. This reduces approximately 470 feet of elevated roadway over land.
All traffic on Route 24 now utilizes the new bridge, and RIDOT has removed the 18-ton weight limit for this section of Route 24.
With the opening of southbound traffic on the new bridge, RIDOT has temporarily closed the on-ramp from Route 138 (Main Road) to Route 24 South. Other local road closures remain in effect on the Tiverton side, chiefly affecting Central Avenue. Roads near the bridge may be occasionally closed to construction activities.
On the Portsmouth side of the river, a section of Route 24 has been shifted at the Hummocks Avenue interchange. The speed limit has been temporarily reduced to 40 mph. for the safety of through traffic and those using the on-ramp from Hummocks Avenue to Route 24 North.
On the Tiverton side of the river, construction work is ongoing on Route 24 that will involve numerous lane shifts. These changes are necessary for construction required to prepare the highway to match the alignment of the new Sakonnet River Bridge.
Now that traffic has been shifted to the new bridge, work will continue on approach roads on both sides of the span. Demolition of segments of the old bridge must take place before this work is finalized. This work includes work on the Evans Avenue Bridge in Tiverton. RIDOT expects construction activities on the segments of Route 24 approaching the bridge to be ongoing through Spring 2013.
In 2014, RIDOT expects to advertise for construction for the demolition of the old Sakonnet River Bridge. All construction on the new bridge is expected to wrap up in 2013, including the opening of a bike path along the northern edge of the new bridge and the connecting paths to local streets on both sides of the bridge. Work on the bike path approach segments is expected to begin in Spring 2013.
Prior to the final demolition of the old bridge, RIDOT will build a parking area and a boat ramp on the Tiverton side of the bridge.